November 28, 2002: Successful and unsuccessful attacks in Kenya

On November 28, 2002 a car crashed through the front of a Kenyan hotel, killing 13 and wounding 80: an attack on an aircraft taxiing failed.

MOMBASA, KENYA – I guess if a terrorist group can’t hijack a plane it is worth firing a missile at it.

I am not sure if you know this but the Israeli national airline El Al has only experienced a hijacking once. Yes, you read that correctly, once. That was way back in 1968. I am sure the company would be a prime target for commandeering a plane, but no one else has succeeded in doing so.

Part of El Al’s record in this regard is the work done by security officials on the ground. I once flew out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and I can tell you that the questioning I was subjected to – at the time I was with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) – was uncomfortable to say the least. But the method works.

You would not happen to be a terrorist, would you? (Photo: Hunter Desportes on flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Given the enmity of so many against Israel it is clear that terrorist attacks against it and its interests will continue. And if El Al, and other Israeli carriers, are impervious to actions while in the air, they are perhaps more exposed while on the ground.

On this day in 2002

A car crashed through the front of an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, and exploded, killing 13 and wounding 80. At the same time, someone fired two surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) at an Israeli plane chartered by Arkia Airlines. The aircraft was undamaged.

I pulled myself out, and I saw the fire and heard the screams, and I ran into the ocean.

Gilbert Kimaki, a swimming pool attendant who was so certain of incineration when he saw the fire from the explosion that he dived into the pool to save himself

The attack was carried out by Al Shabaab in Somalia in an attempt to disrupt the Israeli tourist industry in Africa. It was the second serious incident in Kenya after the 1998 US Embassy bombing. Luckily, the aircraft took off unimpeded: this is not always going to be the case as terrorists continue to seek novel ways to destroy.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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